Arlington Video Agency’s Touching Spec Ad for Toyota Highlights the Importance of Cultural Representation in Advertising

Arlington-based video production agency, Lens End Media, has taken a bold step towards addressing authentic representation with their latest spec ad for Toyota, highlighting the untold stories of Asian-American consumers often overlooked by mainstream advertising.

Preview of LEM’s Toyota Spec Ad

Recognizing a gap in South-Asian representation within major car manufacturer’s advertising, Ibrahim Zafar, CEO at Lens End Media, set out to create a commercial that not only showcased Toyota’s product but also celebrates the rich cultural heritage of their loyal Asian-American consumer base.

The spec ad, self-funded by Lens End Media, centers around a poignant moment in the life of a South-Asian bride during her Rukhsati, or send off, in which the groom and bride leave the shaadi (wedding) venue together with the elders of the Family. As she embarks on her journey, the bride reflects on her patchy relationship with her father, prompting her to pause and share one final embrace with him before driving away in her Toyota.

“The Rukhsati is a trinket that is so embedded within Pakistani and broader South-Asian culture. It’s the moment in which the bride and groom are on their own for the first time. It’s emotional for both sides. You’re now each other’s responsibility instead of your parents’.” remarked Zafar. “And what’s even more beautiful is that every culture has their own version of this moment, and while the ad focuses on this moment from our culture, we hope the audience will interpret it from their own unique traditions.”

The main lead (‘Sana’, Manasi Mehta) accompanied by her stage-husband (Hrishabh Sobti)

The ad hopes to serve as a stark contrast to the traditional narratives often portrayed in mainstream advertising. By shining a spotlight on a culturally significant moment in the life of an Asian-American family, Lens End Media aims to challenge the status quo and encourage brands like Toyota to dig deeper and find cultural stories that resonate with their diverse consumer base.

Toyota’s Relevance for Asian Americans

According to a study published by S&P Global Mobility, Toyota brand loyalty among Asian-Americans is at 48.5%, which is 5% higher than that of runner-up Ford. In fact, African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics accounted for a third of all new retail registrations as of 2022.

“The auto industry is in a great position to help shift the narrative through AAPI storytelling. Cultural relevance is more than just diverse talent being placed into the driver seat. It’s about intertwining the unique traditions that Asian-Americans across all cultural backgrounds with the future that’s theirs to create. By highlighting the rich history across the Asian diaspora, we can better celebrate and increase our knowledge and acceptance around the broader American community,” remarked industry expert Tarik Nally, Chief Creative Officer of TKT Collab, Stellantis’ Multicultural Agency of Record.

The creation of the spec ad was a labor of love for Zafar and his team, who spared no effort in bringing their vision to life. From casting the perfect actors to capturing the emotional nuances of the storyline, every aspect of the production was meticulously planned and executed.

“Representation matters, especially in advertising where brands have the power to shape perceptions and influence cultural narratives,” said Zafar. “With this spec ad, we hope to inspire Toyota and other major car manufacturers to take a closer look at the diverse stories within their consumer base and embrace more inclusive narratives in their mainstream TV spots.”

What’s Next

Lens End Media has already started working on more specs for more top consumer good brand such as Nike.

Family birthday dinner (Leena Siddiqui, Krystel Chebli, and Shabbir Kazmi)

In a world where diversity is celebrated and cultural stories are embraced, Lens End Media’s spec ad for Toyota serves as a powerful reminder of the transformative impact of representation in advertising. As brands strive to connect with their increasingly diverse consumer base, Zafar and his team stand ready to lead the way, one compelling story at a time.

"The caliber of the work this season coming from creators such as Lens End Media truly has reflected the theme of breaking out and standing out”

— Sabrina Dridje, Telly Executive Director

Behind the scenes look of the crew filming the spec ad near Waterford Banquet Hall in Springfield, VA

Special Thanks to Cast and Crew

This commercial would not have been made possible without the incredible efforts put in by the cast and crew who we would like to recognize below:

Leena Siddiqui
Manasi Mehta
Shabbir Kazmi
Hrishabh Sobti
Diana Hajali
Samira Sardella
Krystel Chebli

Director/Producer: Ibrahim Zafar
DP: Ahmad Asaad
UPM: Neil Gerardo
1st AC: Caleb Hargett
DIT: Bryan Bermudez
Gaffer: Andrew Alfonsi
Key Grip: Skylar Carr
Grip: Michael Bittner
Production Designer/Costume Designer: Senna Ahmad
Assistant Production Designer/Wardrobe: Laura Foltz
HMUA: Salsabil Malik
Henna Artist: Senna Ahmad
Key PA: David Holman
PA: Andre Banks
Editor: Mark Moore III, Ibrahim Zafar
VFX/Color: Ahmad Asaad
Story: Ibrahim Zafar, Niha Zafar